Thursday, July 20, 2006

Two Days in Yuma

I spent two days in Yuma this week. The County Farm Bureau had their policy development meetings and I was down there to assist them. It was fun and I enjoy going to Yuma.

We had our first meeting and then the vice president met me at my hotel to take me by his house and grab his oldest son and the boat and then we went out to the river. You would never know such a beautiful place was so close to Yuma. There was so much water! Yuma is beautiful anyways with all the fields but the river so reminded me of home, that I was a little homesick that night. John let me even drive his boat which was so much fun. We then headed back into town and met up with his wife (very nice woman). She couldn't make it to the river with us because of her signing classes she is taking. I am a little envious that she can sign, I had tried to take a class a few years ago and just didn't have the time. We had a great dinner and just a great conversation. They are such great people!

The next morning after doing some research for the next meeting, I toured around the town and looked at the real estate that is for sale. The board is looking to replace their building and I wanted to make sure that I understood their options and what the area was like. I also met up with John again, this time out in Wellton. We met at his company shop and then he took me around to a few fields and showed me several crops. I really learned about cotton and think that I finally understand how the plant grows and what the grower has to do to make it productive. John also showed me some artichokes growing for seed. They look just like mini sunflowers as they dry out prior to harvesting. I also walked into a black eyed pea field and learned the how they determine when to harvest them. We also talked a lot about the vegetable industry and different things the growers need to keep in mind. Overall, it was a very productive couple of hours and I learned more in those two hours than in six years of sitting in meetings about vegetables and cotton.

The one thing that I still need to learn is how to walk into the fields. John just walked in, no problem, I thought I was going to fall over trying to walk down the row!

Grand Canyon Hotel

I stayed the weekend at the Grand Canyon Hotel in Williams, AZ. We were up there for a retreat with work, but it is a cool little town and a cool hotel. It is the oldest hotel in the state and they are remodeling it to look like it did a hundred years ago. It is taking a lot of work because it stood empty for about 85 years. There is no AC in the hotel but every room has a fan and the windows were open for the breeze. The town is actually a happening place Friday nights. A group of us went to a local establishment and played a version of shuffle board (or something like that). We also played a little poker and had great fun betting the trail mix and especially raising a “raisin.”

If anyone is ever in Williams, they should try and stay at this hotel.

Time with Cari and the kids

I arrived in Fredericksburg around 4ish and Cari called and asked if I would pick up Chase from her dance class. That would be an adventure so I agreed. It was an adventure because I got lost and Chase tried to help me find my way back to their house but it wasn’t looking very good. I’ve been to see them quite a few times but I’ve never been the one driving. I happened to stumble upon an intersection that looked very familiar while on the phone to Cari so we were able to find our way to their house. They live outside of the town area. Once there, I unloaded my suitcase from my car and she told the babysitter everything she needed to know then we were off to play BUNKO with her friends. Vance was fishing with friends in NC that weekend and we probably passed each other on the road and didn’t even know it. BUNKO was great but we got back so late that I just fell into bed and then we were up on Saturday and after breakfast and Cari taking Chase for pictures, we decided to finish their home improvement project- painting the deck chairs.

In order to finish the deck chairs we had to tape off all the wood slats (my job) and Cari painted them and then removed the tape once they were dry. We both taped the first two chairs and the last one but I think I got to the point where I could tape them in the time it took her to paint one and remove the tape from the other. We stopped once when the ice cream truck came by. It was a nice way to be productive and spend time with Cari. I was tired and sore though by the time we were finished because of standing bent over the chairs taping them. I even had a great little sun tan/burn on the back of my legs and on one foot where the sun hit me. We finished late afternoon and all took showers and baths (the kids had been playing outside this entire time) then we ordered some dinner and spent some time just relaxing. Sunday we woke up and just puttered around the house doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen before I had to leave for the airport. I enjoy spending time with them and hate having to leave at the end of my stay. I was glad to get home though after being on the road for so long- it was nice to sleep in my own bed.

North Carolina and the Duchess of Arizona

Ron showing a soft shell crab (our dinner).

Being given the title "Dutchess of Arizona" by Queen Elizabeth.

I got off the plane on Saturday the 6th from Mexico and went home, unpacked and did laundry and repacked most of the same clothes for my trip to North Carolina. I left on Tuesday the 9th for Kill Devil Hills, NC for a Farm Bureau Safety Conference. I love these conferences because the people are so cool! I flew into Richmond because it was a shorter drive for me to NC than from Raleigh or Charlotte. This also gave me the opportunity to spend Friday evening through Sunday afternoon with Cari, Vance and the kids in Fredericksburg, VA (just 30 minutes north of Richmond).

I landed and picked up my rental car. I got a convertible because it wasn’t anymore money and they asked me if I wanted it. Why would I pass that up. The problem was, I didn’t know how to put the top down till I got to NC! The drive was amazing and it was so green and beautiful there. I passed through probably 10 counties on my drive there in 3 hours- in Arizona, I would have only passed through maybe 3 counties, if I was lucky. The hotel was cute and right on the beach. Kill Devil Hills is right next to Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Bros first flew a plane. I got there pretty late and just went to bed. I got up early the next morning and went down to the beach to put my feet in the Atlantic Ocean, something I had never done. The Ocean was so nice and the water was warm. The beach was amazing and I took pictures of my feet in the ocean. I was so occupied by taking the picture, I forgot about the waves till a big one came and soaked me almost to my knees. After that, I sat up on the deck of the hotel, right on the beach and sat in a rocker, put my feet up on the rail and took a nap in the sun with the ocean sounds. It was perfect!!!

Our conference started at 1:00 p.m., and it was really great to catch up and see everyone. I missed last year’s conference so I had a lot to catch up on. It was nice to see the guys from NC as well. I had met some of their field staff when they were out here and so it was good to see them again. That evening after our meeting, a few of us went to dinner and then Kristin and I took the convertible, with the top down, to get a t-shirt from a billboard we saw on our way down to the conference. They whole way down, there were these billboards we saw (we talked about it later with a few others) that said “I got crabs from Dirty Dick’s” crab house. It was so funny it made us laugh. Kristin wanted a t-shirt for her husband and I couldn’t bring myself to buy one but I did buy a shot glass!! We had so much fun in the little store next to the restaurant that tears were coming down our faces!

The next morning, I met Kristin and Marsha at 5:30 for a walk on the beach. We walked out for about 20 or 30 minutes and then turned back to the hotel. It was a real calorie burner. I was sweating and I’m not sure if it was from walking in the sand or from the humidity but I felt better when I was finished. That afternoon we took some tours and saw some soft-shell crab that we were having for dinner later. I doubt the ones we looked at were the same ones we ate but they were really good. We also toured a boat building company and the lost colony as well as the Elizabeth II (a boat the pilgrims came over on). We then met with the local county Farm Bureau board and had dinner which was yummy. It was pork, crab, shrimp, catfish and a whole bunch of over things.

We had a special guest for dinner, Queen Elizabeth (the first). She came to welcome us to North Carolina and then proceeded to “knight” a few people. Darrell from Ohio was “knighted” as well as three individuals from the North Carolina Farm Bureau and myself!! I was “knighted” the Duchess of Arizona!! It was quite fun and entertaining. We all got some great laughs out of that.
On Friday we wrapped up our conference and I headed out around 1:00 to head back towards Richmond and then on to Fredericksburg for my visit with Cari and the kids.

Project CENTRL Goes South

Ciudad Obregon, Mexico

May 2-6, 2006 Project CENTRL, my leadership class spent about a week in Mexico for our class trip. It was fun to see and hear all that the college is doing in the area. The college there, Institute of Technology Sonora (ITSON) is cutting edge in many aspects of colleges. I enjoyed spending time with growers and talking to them about issues they face such as labor shortages, trade concerns and industries moving to China for better labor rates.

We as a class had a good time together as well. We all got together and bought Jason a donkey (our mascot) for his wedding present- we also got a Home Depot gift card for him and Becky but I think the donkey jokes had more mileage with our group!!

Prior to our class leaving for Mexico, we had a congressional hearing on Monday the 1st. I had never been to a congressional hearing before in person so I was fascinated by it. We also hosted the congressmen, their staff and the attendees for a BBQ. I was able to sit and visit with one of the congressmen from North Carolina and we had a great chat about agriculture and North Carolina, Farm Bureau and why he was in office. The other congressman from NC new some of the same people I did because a fellow FB staff person on the government relations side of NC had previously been on his staff. Jake is a good kid and we had fun in Cincinnati when we were all there for a conference a year ago.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A new job and a new truck

My new company truck. The front and door of my truck.

The back of my truck and the other trucks with my truck. I'm glad I have the one I have!

I started a new job back in January. I’m still at Farm Bureau but I am in field services now. I am responsible for six county Farm Bureaus (we have 15 counties in the state and 13 have county Farm Bureaus). I pretty much am responsible for everything south of the Phoenix area. I love my new job because I get to be out with the members. With my new job came a new company truck.
Kacie worked to get not have it be wrapped like her’s and Paul’s but they wanted to wrap it. Thankfully though it has nothing to do with a Dodge dealership so mine is just covered in agricultural products.

Gentlemen Start Your Engines!!!!

On the start/finish line. Tony Stewart driver of the #20 Home Depot (favorite driver). I took this one far away so I could just focus on him when he was near me.

Dad and I at the races. Kasey Kahne driver of the number 9 Dodge.

Kevin Harvick driver of the #29 Goodwrench.
Dad and I in front of a Tony Stewart Car.

We arrived at the track by noon to be part of a drawing for the NASCAR members club. I had signed up the day before and had to be there at noon to draw for prizes. The race didn’t start till later but we went early. Dad and I parked way out so we could get out of the race and not deal with traffic afterwards. Well I drew and won a chance to go down on the start finish line for driver introductions! We hung around and then went and found our seats. We had shopped a couple times for drivers of Dad’s friends that he had called and told them about the race the night before.

I had hoped he had had fun on Friday night but the way he talked to his friends about it I think he had a blast. I think I may have got him addicted to it because he talked about coming down every April for the races. After getting to our seats and hanging out a bit and explaining the layout of the track to my dad, I went off to do the driver introductions. We all met and then went down to the start finish line where I got to sign my name and also put that Tony Stewart rocks!!! Then we lined up on either side of the stage so that as the drivers came off the stage, they would walk right through us to the trucks waiting. It was so cool because they were so close and they would slap or grab our hands. Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart grabbed my hand, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex and others slapped my hand and Dale Jr, bumped into me high-fiving a friend behind me. I got some great photos out of it and memories to last a lifetime. (If you get the NASCAR members magazine, I’m in the May edition on page 18, I’m there twice.) I then made my way back to my seat and joined Dad.

It was fun and the race was really good. The radio chatter was interesting. They had red flagged the race at one point and Jr was telling a story about his driver from the night before. It was quite funny. I think Tony would have won it had they not been worried about gas. Greg Biffle also was worried about gas and I think he may have run out but Kevin Harvick won which was a big boost for him. I’m glad he won. We all had a great time and Dad found that he really like Biffle for a driver so we bought another shirt (Greg Biffle’s) for Dad before we left.

I think this was the best race I had been to and am looking forward to November’s race!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dad comes for a visit

Dad came to visit for a week and he got here just in time for Easter and then I carted him around the state, first to Yuma (for some great BBQ) and then over to Willcox for meetings. I kept telling him to rest for NASCAR weekend and I’m not sure if he believed me but I think I sent him home tired but happy.

We went to Yuma for their monthly meeting and got back in time to meet Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Jake to go to a Dbacks game. They have really good season tickets and so I knew the view would be great. Dad had never been to a major league baseball game so it was fun to share it with him.

On Friday I left work early and we headed out to PIR for the Busch Race. I had mentioned in February to a board member how much I loved NASCAR so he ended up giving me tickets for the SRP booth over turn 1. I had already bought my weekend race tickets so I sold my Friday tickets to John and Tracy. We got there early so we could shop. I explained to my dad that you do all the shopping on the Busch race day rather than waiting till the Nextel NASCAR race because things sell out and the crowd is much deeper. We walked around and I bought a couple Kasey Kahne (2nd Fave) items and a lot of Tony Stewart items (he’s my favorite!!). I checked out Dale Jr.’s stuff but had most of it so I bought a t-shirt to give as a present. Dad bought a shirt and hat from Jeff Gordon (tried to stop him but didn’t really work). We also picked up our radio and a few other things. Dad didn’t really have a favorite driver so I told him about most of them. He hung out at the snack bar while I hiked back to the truck to put our stuff away. I had parked about 2 miles out (the furthest you can park) so we could get out easily.

We headed into the race and we had a great view of the track and free food and drinks all night in addition to the gift bag that SRP gave all their people. They were great seats but I think I like being in the stands with all the people because you can scream and yell and cheer. Most of the people in the box were there to socialize and not really watch the race.

Kevin Harvick won and I told Dad all about him. I was happy for him. He burned rubber clear down by us! Many of the accidents also happened by us so it added to the excitement for Dad. We were tired when we climbed in the truck to go home.

On our way home...

April 9, 2006

Dana’s plane was leaving for England at 6 am. Our guide told her that she would need to have her wake up call at 2 am and bags outside the door at 2:30. At 1 am, the phone rang (this is just a couple hours after going to bed), it happened to be our guide. Dana was supposed to leave at 2 am- not wake up at that time! So she threw her stuff together and got ready and left. Which was probably good for me so I wouldn’t cry at her leaving for England again. You never know how much you miss a friend till they are gone.

With Dana gone, I slept until 7:30 then got ready and headed down to breakfast with Ang. We then walked down to a little store to get a few snacks for our long flight home. We headed via taxi with a cute driver, to the airport around 10:30 and was on our flight by 2. It was pretty uneventful except that I spilled a whole glass of water on Ang and I during the flight. When we hit Chicago, I checked my messages and there were work calls and a call from my friend Melissa M.

She had called to tell me that her and Andy D. had gotten engaged while I was gone. Mel is one of my closest friends and I kind of tricked her into telling me the ring size and what she wanted so Andy could get the ring and propose while I was gone. So it is true… all major things (so far only the good ones) happen to my friends while I’m out of state or country!!

Our final night in Athens

We arrived back at the hotel in Athens and found our rooms. We were taken to the Acropolis on the back side and dropped off. We took a stroll down by Mars Hill and the market place. We never saw that side before and were a little disappointed we never had the chance to shop there. The marketplace was so close. We continued down to the restaurant and had dinner with Pam, Kay, Rudy, Rod and Kathy. The food was decent- the fish was really good. I wasn’t really impressed with it over all.

We left the restaurant and saw the opposite side of the Parthenon and the marketplace. It was so pretty at night. Our driver met us and drove us back to the hotel the scenic way and we saw the Presidential Palace, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and of course the Temple of Zeus!

At the hotel, we met Pam for a drink before heading off to our rooms. Dana and I shared a room so I could take a few things back for her to the states.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ancient Corinth

The first picture is the place they believe could be Paul's first church in Corinth. The second is the Bema that Paul was brought to to be judged by the Jews.

We arrived in Corinth! Paul and Andrew introduced the Greeks to Christianity. Corinth is one of the churches Apostle Paul sent letters to (I and II Corinthians in the Bible are the letters). Corinth, in Paul’s time, was about 150,000 people in population. Paul first traveled to Philippi and then left to preach in Theasolocia, Athens, and Corinth and then on to Ephesus. We visited all but Philippi and Ephesus on our tour. During one visit to Corinth, Paul was visited by Timothy and Silas. The first time Paul stayed in Corinth he stayed for 18 months. It was very peaceful there and I kept thinking that I may be stepping and walking where Paul walked centuries ago.

The site is divided into three levels. The temple of Apollo is the first thing you see when you enter. It is on the highest level. It dates back to the beginning of the 6th Century, making it the oldest temple. Hera’s temple in Olympia is the second oldest temple in Greece. The actual area of ancient Corinth is so small- you can see it’s entirety from anyplace in the area. A lot of the ancient town was built over by the current town. When you visit you look up from the edge of the ruins and there is a house that people live in right there. I think it would be cool to have that be your view out your bedroom or kitchen window.

The second level is the Agora- the Roman market place. We walked past the temple and Agora to the middle of the marketplace where a large marble slab that originally had a statute of Athena and an alter was located At one end of the marble floor was a location referred to as Bema. It was a tall balcony that officials would appear to give speeches or announcements. This is the place where it is believed that Paul was taken to be judged when he was accused by the Jews. Three months after that incident, he sailed for Ephesus. Across the marketplace has a store that was rebuilt from the stones. It is believed that this is the location of Paul’s first church.

After walking on that level you take marble steps down to the third level. At the point that you begin to descend the steps, there is a spring the ancient city used for water. It still has water (you can hear it). The spring is in a stone circular building with pillars and windows. An early Christian church is located behind the spring. The third level is the Lehighton road that leads to the port. This would lead from the port in Lechaion up to the main part of town and then up the stairs to the Agora area. The road is still remaining in the small section that is persevered. It is quite amazing to see it. There are ceramic shops located along it and this is where they believe Paul had his shop.

We didn’t get to spend much time in the ruins- there wasn’t even free time to walk around so I hope to go back and visit it again someday. We left the ancient city of Corinth and traveled to the Canal of Corinth.

The Canal of Corinth began construction in the 6th Century but stopped until 1881. Before the canal, boats were unloaded and using logs, they were drug across the peninsula (approx. 3 miles) and then reloaded and off they would go. The canal can only be used by small and medium boats.
We first saw the Aegean Sea side of the canal and then we walked over (dodging cars) to see the Gulf of Corinth that leads to the Ionic Sea. I had my picture taken on both sides. We then board the bus for our final trip back to Athens. Once inside Athens and on our way back to the hotel, the temple of Zeus was pointed out again!

Sanctuary of Aesculapius and the Ruins of Mycenae

The entrance to the tomb of Atreaus.

The Sanctuary of Easculapius

April 8, 2006

We left Napulia for Athens. Today we are going to be visiting Corinth!! I’ve been waiting the entire trip to come here. Before going to Corinth we had a few other places to see. We first visited the Sanctuary of Aesculapius amphitheatre. This place was very cool and amazing and I even cried. Dana and Ang had been talking about this place the entire trip. Aesculapius is considered by the Greeks to be the god of medicine. He was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman. The amphitheatre was built in the 4th century B.C. It has been known for its acoustics and performers don’t even need microphones for people at the top to hear them as if they were sitting right next to them.

Nina, our guide, started the demonstration of the acoustics by dropping coins and crumpling paper and tearing the paper in the middle of the theatre. I sat higher and it was amazing the clarity that you could hear everything with. Nina allowed people to try the acoustics by performing. Dana sang “You Raised Me Up” and it was so beautiful and I cried because the last time she sang that song was at Terri’s funeral. I taped her and Ang singing and it was hard to tape it while crying!!

After leaving the amphitheatre, we drove to a pottery place and watch a guy make a pot and another paint a large pot. We also shopped for some items while we were there. We then took a short drive to the tomb of Atreaus and the location of the ruins of Mycenae.
The tomb is where the king of Agamemmon was buried. It dates back to 13th Century B.C. There are other tombs that exist in Greece, but this was the biggest and most preserved. Dana and I posed as lions in front of the entrance. It kind of smelled bad inside but it is a tomb and what do you expect- it’s not going to smell like roses!!

We crossed the road to the Mycenae Acropolis. The king was the only one to permanently live behind the walls. When there was danger those living outside the walls in town would enter inside the walls for protection. The walls were about six feet wide. We entered the acropolis through the Lion’s Gate. The acropolis was destroyed by fire and an earthquake (by this time, it seems like a theme). Inside the gate was a grainery because in excavation, they found jugs with carbonized grain inside (how cool is that!).

It was a neat area to visit. The poems of Homer describe many of the ruins we visited along our journey through Greece or ruins that were nearby. There was a monument to the prophet Elijah nearby. I walked to the top of the ruins. It was so peaceful up there and the scenery reminded me of Oregon.

We left the area and stopped in town for a bite to eat. The owner of the restaurant, a little old man, broke plates for us! We encouraged him to break a few more by yelling “Opah!!!” and he did a couple more and then stopped. We had been wanting someone to break plates, the entire time we were there but everyone- except him said no.

Nauplia and Megalopis

We headed to the town of Nauplia. Along the way we stopped at Megalopis were we had a little ice cream served by an older gentleman who didn’t speak any English but the very beautiful grandson (or maybe son) did. He told us how much we owed after getting our ice cream from the grandfather. We just used gestures and pointing to get some great ice cream.

We made our evening stop in Nauplia. Nauplia was a seashore town that was very quite and it reminded me of some beach towns in the states. Nina, our guide let us off in town for a short walking tour and then gave us about an hour to shop on our own. There were many cute shops and I even bought another purse. (I know a big shocker!) Dana and I had some extra time so we went into a cute little place and had a drink while we waited for the bus. We went to the hotel and had dinner and then spent the rest of the evening at the hotel piano bar with the rest of our tour group and even Nina, our guide, joined us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Posing as three Greek gods outside the temple ruins of Zeus.

Hera's Temple and the stones in front are the location where the Olympic torch is lighted every four years in a ceremony.

The gymnasium at Anient Olympia.

April 7, 2006

We left the hotel this morning and visited Ancient Olympia where the Olympics began. We arrived at the archeological site of the original Olympic games. In 1895 excavations began in the area. It was completely buried again by fire and earthquakes and this time they threw in a flood from the river Alphis for good measure!!

There are temples to Zeus and Hera that people was able to come and worship them. The athletes would arrive one month early to have time to adjust. They would also take an oath to not cheat. The first building we arrived at was the gymnasium. The second building was the wrestling room where wrestling and boxing took place. Before the day was over there was actual wrestling that took place there!

This area was inhabited by people in the 2nd millennium B.C. but later the area became a sacred place and no one lived in the area except for the priests. We also visited the temple of Zeus and several pillars were scattered around the base of the temple and across from the temple was an early Christian basilica that was built on top of the workshop that built the huge ivory and gold statute of Zeus that stood 35 feet tall!! It was one of the seven wonders of ancient Greece.

We entered the ancient stadium and there was a pedestal at one side of the field where the statute of the goddess of agriculture was worshiped on the first day of the games. Her name was Demetra. I brought back a miniature statute of her for Jim, Kevin and I. We aren’t going to be worshiping her any time soon but it was cool to see how important agriculture was to them back then.

Hera’s temple was built in the 6th Century B.C. and for one whole century both Hera and Zeus were worshipped there until the temple of Zeus was constructed. The alter in front of Hera’s temple is where the Olympic torch is lighted every four years. After lighting the torch, it is carried into the stadium nearby where the first runner takes the flame to travel the world.

We had half an hour of free time so we toured the gymnasium area were the wrestling occurred. Ang and I “wrestled” in the gymnasium for Dana’s camera. It was quite funny and I began to laugh and lost my balance and fell and Ang promptly kicked me while I was down and cheer for her victory. We had quite a few laughs over that!!! At each temple area in Greece, we would do some pose and take a picture as the “gods.” I’m sure some people thought we were disrespectful but it added to the humor of the tour.

After walking through the ruins, we visited the museum that goes with the site, inside were all the statutes that lined the pediment (top) of Zeus’ temple. One side had Zeus (without his head- PB!) and the other side was of Apollo. These statutes were bigger than us so the size of the temple was amazing.

The bridge that took 115 years to build

The Charilos Trikoupis Bridge.

Holding the Olympic Torch

We left Delphi and headed back through the olive groves where some of the trees are 2000 years old. Our guide told us that olives that are to be eaten are hand picked and those to be used for oil are machine picked. Interesting agriculture facts!!! We continued on towards the water to a town called Itea where we sat by the sea and tried to drink some ouzo and still couldn’t acquire a taste for it. Itea was the port location of the old town of Delphi. We skipped the lunch and took the time to walk down the street to the shops and ran into a gentleman who has a daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon so we chatted a bit and the girls laughed that I could go anywhere in the world and meet someone who could be traced to me like in six degrees of separation. It got better because I mentioned that I now live in Arizona and he spends the winters in Yuma so that really sent us over the edge in laughter!

We continued on to Corinth and Olympia but stopped to view the new bridge that connects continental Greece to the peninsula. It had been a vision of the Prime Minister since 1889 and was completed in time for the 2004 Olympic games. Up until that time, to cross over you had to use a ferry and it took about 45 minutes, now it takes a toll and about 5 minutes. I think the Greeks were procrastinating on the project for it to take that long but we got to see a video about it and inside the visitor’s center are the two torches that crossed the bridge. We all had our photo taken with it! It is a beautiful bridge and the Greeks have every right to be very proud of it. The bridge is called Charilos Trikoupis.

Delphi and Apollo's Temple

The treasury, Apollo's Temple and the view of the temple from the theatre on our way to the arena.

April 6, 2006

We left our hotel and headed to the ancient town of Delphi where Apollo’s temple and oracle were located. This is the site where the Greeks would come to get prophecies. It was first built in 7 century B.C. It was divided into four sections or levels. The first level was the Roman marketplace (Agora) with the small shops. Just below the temple, was the Athenian store where they displayed the loot from the wars of the Persians. We then traveled the sacred road of Delphi to the second level where Apollo’s actual temple was located. It was built in 4th Century B.C. when Apollo came to Delphi and killed a python to become the ruler of Delphi.

The temple had been destroyed three previous times by fire and earthquakes (you think they would reconsider their locations!) So what we actually saw was the remains of the 4th temple of Apollo. The sacred road originally was flanked by statutes on each side. A few still remain today but they are housed in the museum. They were of gods, kings and emperors. The navel stone is located near the treasury where it is said two eagles met that Zeus sent out to find the center of the universe. This is the location that Apollo was to place the oracle. The oracle is where the prophetess would be to read your future. Our guide told us about her and she would sit and chew on bay leaves and give very vague readings- I think she was high on something!! Sometimes she would just sit and scream at people and then send them off to have it interpreted by the temple priests. She sounds kind of like the fortune tellers of today only without the screaming or hallucinations. She would give vague readings because she didn’t want the gods to be wrong.

On the highest level were the cities’ treasureries where the people would leave their gifts for the gods at their town’s treasury. The fourth level had a stadium for games similar to the Olympics that were dedicated to the various gods. They trick you when you visit by saying the fourth level is just a little farther up the hill when it actually is quite a ways but I was determined to go up there even if it took my all day to climb the hill. I made it and took a picture then turned around and came back down just in time to go over to the museum with the group! I am not sure how the athletes climbed those hills and then competed right away, even the most physically fit people where out of breath and gasping for air when they made it up.
We left the temple area and walked a short distance to the Archeological Museum of Delphi. Inside we saw the statute of the sphinx as well as the charioteer. The charioteer is a bronze statute dedicated to Apollo representing a racer after his championship win in the Python games in 478 B.C. His eyes ere intact and if you stared at him intently it seemed as though he would open his mouth to speak at any moment.

The rest of the story...

The Bay of Corinth from my hotel room.

We continued on to Delphi after stopping at the gas station next to the John Deere dealership. Prior to getting to the hotel, we stopped in the town of Arahova were we were able to do a little bit of shopping. This region or area has a large amount of olive trees. We will be driving through them tomorrow but this large grove is owned by private individuals, corporations and the government. They all own various trees that are intermixed so they just harvest all of them and then split out the proceeds based on the number of trees you own. It was quite impressive. It reminded me of the Rim Country area leaving Payson for Snowflake where all you see are trees.

We arrived at the hotel and I can see the Bay of Corinth from my room. Before dinner, Dana, Ang and Pam came down and we sat out on the deck and drank a bottle of wine and just took in the beauty of the scenery. After Apollo’s temple tomorrow we will be traveling on to Olympia.

Friday, April 14, 2006

John Deere in Europe!

John Deere in Greece! Who would have imagined. Since I saw one in England, I think I'm going to try and find a dealership in every European country I visit in the future!

Monastery here we come!

Dana, Angela and I in Kalambaka outside one of the monasteries.

April 5, 2006

We woke this morning and left the hotel for our visit to the famous monasteries in the area. They are built on top of rocks that are inaccessible to normal people at least a hundred years ago). They use to pull people up in nets or bring up supplies in nets. Now there are staircases that are carved into the rock to allow access. It is quite amazing. We drove by several of them before we stopped to visit one. There use to be about 26 of them until many were damaged by bombs during WWII. In order to visit them, women had to wear skirts and a shirt that covered their shoulders. If you did not have a skirt they would provide the women with wraps to wear over their pants. One of the monasteries was even used in a James Bond movie.

The first monastery was inhabited in the 14th century. The actual monastery we visited was built in 1542 by two brothers. It is dedicated to all saints and is completely covered inside with pictures of saints, just as all monasteries and Greek churches are. The paintings in this church dated back to the 16th century. Both brothers are buried at the church, which is quite small. We didn't see any monks while we were visiting the monastery.

During our visit to the church, Nina, our guide yelled at another group and guide to be quiet. We thought it was quite entertaining- especially when she yelled at the French. It usually occurred at least once a day so we started guessing at which stop she would yell at a group.

We left this monastery and proceeded down to another monastery that actually was inhabited by nuns instead of monks. The nun's monastery was referred to as St. Steven and 30 nuns reside there. It was built in 1780 but was destroyed by a fire and was recently rebuilt. We saw on the inside of the church the painting being done to fill the inside of the church. I thought it was quite interesting. Since women can not perform certain church duties so monks from the All Saints church come over to assist them. The view from St. Steven's was amazing for the valley below.

We left the nuns and drove back into town for lunch before heading off to Delphi for the night.

After an hour or so on the bus, those of us in the back decided to see if we could spot the John Deere dealership again so I could get a picture of it. We all kept our eyes open for it and I actually thought maybe we had already passed it or would turn off the road before we reach it. But to my amazement, it appeared up ahead on the road. I spotted the building first before the sign- who can not spot John Deere yellow and green? So we all were poised with our cameras when the bus began to slow and pull off. We were told we were stopping in an hour and a half(when we left lunch) and our driver chose to stop at the gas station right in front of the dealership!! I was so excited that I ran off the bus and over to snap a picture. Then Dana came over after visiting the station to take a photo of me in front of it. They had quite a few large tractors and cotton pickers in front. I couldn't figure out how to reach it so see if they sold toys and books inside like the American stores do. But I did feel a little at home- even if it was in Greek!

We continued on to Delphi where we stopped in town for a quite tour and shopping before heading to the hotel. Delphi has a large olive grove nearby that is owned by both private individuals as well as the government.

At the hotel, my room overlooked the Bay of Corinth and so we sat on the deck and watched the sun go down over a bottle of vine. Tomorrow we will be visiting Apollo's temple before heading to Olympia.

Monastary here we come!

North to Kalambaka

April 4, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad!!! I called him in Post all the way from Greece. It was 5pm for me and 7am for him.

We woke this morning and packed our bags to leave Athens for Kalambaka. It is about a five hour drive north of Athens. There is so much agriculture to be seen outside of Athens. They grow so many crops that remind me of Arizona and Yuma County in particular. They grow cotton, wheat, lettuce, tomatoes, artichokes, and olives other than livestock. The olive industry is their number one agricultural industry in Greece.

On our way to Kalambaka, we passed the town of Thebes. Thebes is where the Greek mythological story of Edapuse occurs. He was born there to the king but his father learned from the Oracle at Apollo's temple that his son would grow up to kill him and marry his mother. The father couldn't allow that to happen so they left the child out on the mountainside to die. Edapuse was found by a sheep herder and taken to the barren king and queen of Corinth. The secret was kept till Edapuse was an adult and in an alcohol induced state, someone let it slip. Well Edapuse went to visit the temple of Apollo to determine his future and along the way he came across another king who refused to yield right of way to him so he killed him. Come to find out it was his real father but he didn't know that until he had made his way back to Thebes and married his mother!!! Talk about a soap opera.

We also stopped near there to view the battle sight of battle of Thermopyles. The King of Spartan is depicted in the monument. Unfortunately, the Greeks (lead by the spartans) were totally out numbered and lost but they gave a great fight. Our guide, Nina (not the guide from the islands) told us all about the battle and their fight and then I asked if they won, expecting a "yes" and then Nina said "no" so we got a chuckle out it.

After a quick lunch we continued on and passed a John Deere dealership along the way. It came up so quickly that I didn't have time to get my camera so I was a little disappointed but at least the Greeks are buying John Deere! We also stopped before reaching the hotel to watch artists make icon paintings on wood. There was a Greek priest there to bless any pictures you purchased. I chose to pass because it really isn't my style.

We finally made it to the hotel and had dinner followed by drinks at the bar with Rudy and Kay and several others from our group.

A three hour tour of Greek Islands

This is Dana and I on the island of Hydra.

April 3, 2006

We woke up early to be downstairs to go on a day cruise to three islands near Athens. Part of the boat ride we tried to ride up top in the beginning but it was too cold that early but the rest of the day it was nice and we worked on our tans and loved the fresh air. We spent the first part of the boat ride getting to know some of our traveling companions better- mainly Pam from Oregon. She was a hoot!! We also sat and chatted with Kathy and Rod.

Our island tour was to Poros, Hydra and Aegina islands. Aegina was the largest and it was the closest to Athens but we passed it first and actually saved it to the last for touring. Our first island was Poros. It was really small and it reminded me of the movie "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."

We boarded the boat again for a short ride onto Hydra. The tour of Hydra was short and we sat by the sea and had drinks until it was time to board the boat for Aegina. The cool thing about the island is there are no motor vehicles and the sole mode of transportation is by donkey. They move people and supplies over the entire island with donkeys!

Our third and final island was Aegina. We had lunch on our way to Aegina so we didn't realize it had become a little chilly outside and that a storm was moving in. We attended the first tour of a Greek Orthodox church with our group and then buggered out to do a little sightseeing on our own. The guide we had didn't really leave a lot of free time on the islands and we knew we wanted to see some other things. We grabbed a carriage and took a short ride around the island before decided the best thing to do was shop!

We boarded the boat for Athens and decided to sit on the middle deck because it was enclosed and there was a band. Our new friends, Rudy and Kay joined us for some great conversation as well as dancing. Back in Athens we headed to the hotel, passing the Temple of Zeus as our tour guide pointed it out!

After a quick nap, we headed out for dinner. Pam, our new friend, joined Dana, Ang and I for dinner and we talked the two newbies into returning to the God's restaurant for dinner. Why pass up a great restaurant! Since it was sprinkling, we sat inside and they gave us the best table that looked out their only window to the Acropolis! The food was again delightful and we had great conversation.

After dinner, we decided to go back a different way that would allow us to walk by the Acropolis and Parthenon one last time before leaving Athens in the morning. It was a great walk and we even had an escort- a stray dog that stayed with us till some rowdy teenagers came by. Then he traded us in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Acropolis, Parthenon and Mars Hill

April 2, 2006

This morning we left the hotel to visit the Acropolis. Acropolis means high point of the city. Atop the Acropolis is the Parthenon, which is the Temple of Athena, goddess of virgins. The Acropolis has only one entrance because the walls were built to be inaccessible. It was rebuilt in the middle of the 5th Century B.C. after it was burned and destroyed. We walked up the Acropolis to the Parthenon. It was so incredible and it doesn't really have straight lines anywhere on it. Next to the temple was another smaller temple dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea. We walked around the back part of the Parthenon to view the Temple of Zeus (again, it was pointed out to us). It appears as though the temple of Zeus is in the middle of town.

Nina our tour guide gave us about 30 minutes to see the area on our own. We quickly left the Parthenon and walked down to visit Mars Hill. Mars Hill can be seen from the Acropolis and is above the ruins of the ancient marketplace. The marketplace and Acropolis is where Apostle Paul walked around and views all the statues to the various gods and then preached from Mars Hill about the "unknown god" in Romans. It was kind of cool to be up there. It was mostly marble so it was very slick but there were steps carved into the side of it from ancient times and we chose that set of stairs to climb the hill over the modern, nice safe stairs with handrails that had recently been set up.

We left the Acropolis and our guide took us to see the Olympic stadium that has been in use in Athens since the first modern Olympic games. It was small by current standards but this is the stadium the marathon runners enter when finishing their race. We had passed in on our way to the hotel the first day but it was nice to be able to actually walk up to it and see it. This stadium had been rebuilt in the 1800's and had been built on the same site as the original. After leaving the stadium we headed towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at least this way Ang and Dana can see it again! Along the way we drove past the Presidential Palace and saw the guards (soldiers of honor) out front in official dress. Their uniform appears to be a jacket, skirt of sorts and tights with elaborate shoes.

At the Tomb, we were there in time to see the changing of the guards. After leaving the Tomb, we drove past the Athens Academy as well as the oldest Christian church. It was named for Paul's first convert- Saint Denis.

Several times on our tour today, our guide would point out the Temple of Zeus as we passed it. So we started referring to it as the line in European Vacation when they get stuck on the round-about in London and Chevy Chase keeps pointing out Big Ben and parliament to his kids. So we would say "look kids, Temple of Zeus, Acropolis" and laugh.

After the tours we shopped again and of course I had to buy some more stuff. We came back to the hotel and got ready for our dinner out of Greek cuisine and dancing. The food was alright, I did like the potatoes in Greece and the dancing was entertaining. After dinner we walked back to the bus and I walked with Kay as Dana walked with her husband Rudy. From the moment I saw them in orientation, I just knew Rudy was a farmer. I was disappointed though because they weren't but after several other conversations with him over the trip he may not be a farmer in reality but he has a heart for the same values and issues as my farmers in AZ do. Rudy reminds me of one of my members from Yuma county. By the end of the trip Rudy and Kay were some of my favorite people.

Athens and Temple of Poseidon

April 1- Dana came arrived at the hotel from London around 3 am and we all talked and caught up on our lives. Around 4:30 we decided to get some sleep and then awoke around 7:30. After showering and breakfast we headed out for some sightseeing and of course shopping since Ang and I had scoped out some stores the night before. For those who have never been to Europe, stores open around 9 am and then close somewhere around 1 or 2 pm and then re-open around 3 or 4pm and stay open till around 6 or so. So sometimes you have to window shop first and then go back to actually shop in the stores of interest.

We did fairly well on the shopping in the first couple of stores. I mainly stuck to purchasing jewelry but we spent some time in the Plaka district of Greece. After shopping we walked to the botanical gardens which were quite lovely and then on to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is similar to ours in D.C. except that you can walk right up to the Tomb and you can stand next to the guards and have your picture taken as long as you don't touch them. We missed the changing of the guards by 10 minutes or so but I did get my picture taken. Later back at the hotel, Dana and Ang were talking about not seeing the Tomb and what a bummer it was. I was confused so I informed them that we actually did visit the site. Dana went back to her camcorder and reviewed her DVD to confirm that we had actually been there!! We all got a good laugh from that.

After visiting the Tomb we headed back towards the Acropolis and had lunch and then headed back to the hotel. We dropped off our stuff and then headed the southern part of Greece to Sounio to visit the Temple of Poseidon. It was a nice drive (especially since we had a driver) and the weather was great. The temple was cool to see because it had been built in the 5th century B.C. The Aegean Sea was right there and there was a nice breeze.

The story of the Aegean Sea is that King Aegean had a son named Thesis who had left to slay a monster and promised his father he would return and when he returned he would change the sails on the ship from black to white if he was successful. Every day Aegean would go to the Temple to watch for the ship, his son returned but had forgot to change the sails so Aegean thought Thesis had been killed so he jumped to his death into the sea below. Thus the naming of the sea.

While visiting the temple, I was posing for a photo when Ang jumped in and we made funny faces at each other. Dana snapped the photo and from then on, every temple we visited we did a funny pose and called them our Greek god poses. We had great fun doing that all week.

After coming back from Sounio we met the rest of our tour group and had a glass of Ouzo. It is a liquor that is very strong and tastes like licorice. I didn't like it but that could be because I don't like licorice. We had dinner with our group and met a couple people. The three that sat at our table were from Phoenix, Oregon and didn't know each other (Kathy and Rod and Pam.) until the trip. They even lived just a few miles from each other. It was kind of cool to have people from Oregon on the trip even though Dana and Ang teased me because I could go anywhere in the world and met someone who knew where I was from or knew someone I know!

We finished dinner and wrote out a few postcards before heading up the street to a local bar we saw on our tours outside of the hotel. It was called "Jukebox" and we thought it looked like a biker bar, except it had scooters out front. We went in and ordered our drinks and then proceeded to check out the jukebox. The bartender informed us it didn't actually work!

After our drinks we headed back down to the hotel and off to bed. Tomorrow we are visiting the Acropolis and Parthenon.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Big Fat Greek Vacation

A view of the Acropolis and Parthenon at night.

March 30-We left phoenix and our flight was delayed so we landed at Dulles at 5 pm and our connecting flight to Frankfurt was leaving at 5:17. Thankfully I was able to run the 14 gates and get into line behind the last person boarding the flight so we could make our connection.

Ang and I didn't have seats next to each other and wasn't able to trade. Our flight was delayed out of Dulles so we missed our connection in Frankfurt and had to take a later flight into Athens. Then our 1pm flight to Athens actually left at 2:30 so hopefully our flights back to the states are on time.

Thankfully when we landed there was a person from the tour agency waiting for us to take us to the hotel. Our hotel was just down from the acropolis and the Parthenon. We also passed the temple of Zeus along the way. Once we arrived at the hotel and checked in our guide called and met us to give us some ideas of things to see on our free day (we came a day early) that we wouldn't see with the tour group.

We got ready and went to dinner at a restaurant the guide suggested. We didn't' actually make that restaurant because we were stopped by another gentleman to eat at his restaurant and we couldn't resist. We sat out on the sidewalk and had an amazing view of the Parthenon all light up at night!! After dinner, Ang and I walked up to the pedestrian walkway that followed the acropolis and Parthenon. For those of you who don't know about the acropolis and Parthenon. The acropolis is a term used for the highest point in the city. In Greece there are several towns and cities that have acropolis, but the one in Athens is most know because the Parthenon is located on top of it. The Parthenon is the Temple of Athena, and also located here is the marketplace that the Apostle Paul walked through in Romans and talked about the statute to the "Unknown God."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Project CENTRL goes to Cottonwood

Thea, Lucia and I were at the Blazing M ranch for Project CENTRL. We spent the weekend in Cottonwood, Arizona for Project Centrl and it was a lot of fun.

We had workshops on volunteerism and learned about our trip in May to Mexico. We also had a mock zoning and planning meeting were we split the group and argued different sides of the issue. I had a lot of fun doing that and really learned a lot.

Friday evening we went to the Blazing M ranch which is very similar to the Rocking R ranch in Mesa. We had a great time walking around and trying out new things and then after the evening was over a group of us made our way to Jerome to check out the night life. I didn't see much of Jerome but I do want to go back.

Saturday after it was over, a few of us girls went to lunch in downtown Cottonwood in a really cute outdoor cafe. We then hit a few antique stores and then headed home. In all it was a great weekend.

Terri, Sharla and David. They were some of my most favorite members of the group from North Carolina. I was sad to see them go.

Mac and the Kinlaws and me. They were North Carolina Field Staff and great fun!

Monday, March 13, 2006

A field trip with North Carolina Farm Bureau

I had been asked several months ago to assist Ken from North Carolina with his group trip to Arizona. They have a program very similar to our Project CENTRL but without the internship and it is only for Farm Bureau members age 36-52. There were 16 class members plus spouses and staff totaled 26 members. I had planned out their trip to do a loop through the state (a lot of driving) it allowed them to really see the various agricultural industries in the state as well as geography, climate and some tourist spots along the way. I was really nervous to meet them on Sunday when they came into Phoenix.

I met them on the west side at a Mexican restaurant called Raul and Theresa's. It was good food and Joe, our lobbyist met with them to give them an overview of the political climate, issues and various things our members are dealing with. After lunch we headed to Yuma. The group rode on the bus and I lead them. One of the North Carolina staff people rode along with me to keep me company. We chatted the whole way (big shocker to those who know me) and I shared various bits of useless trivia that I know about Arizona, catcus, and other stuff (another surprise). Once we hit Gila Bend, the group asked me if Mac (the NC staffer) had talked my ears off because he was suppose to be a talker. I said that we chatted the whole way but I didn't notice him being talkative because I'm talkative too. Dana says I can talk to a wall if I need to.

We hit Yuma and grabbed dinner and then went to bed because we were leaving the hotel at 5:30 a.m. to go to the border in San Luis and watch the workers cross. We were a little late Monday morning because they had an earlier starting time so we saw some of the workers and a lot of kids crossing for school. It surprised the ladies to see the kids crossing by themselves to go to school. It was interesting to see the differences from NC to AZ. After that we went to the lettuce fields and saw them packaging head lettuce and romaine lettuce. Then we toured over to a cauliflower field and tried a new breed of cauliflower that looked like it was covered in butter because it was yellow. Very nice and quite good. After lunch at Hunter's Steakhouse we toured Associated Packing and tasted some mineolas and had a bag of lemons for all of us.

The guys in Yuma were really great to the group from North Carolina and I really had fun riding around on the bus with them to the various tour spots. Everyone from NC was so nice and sweet. I loved how they referred all week to the women as Miss.... I never heard them just say their first name it was always Miss Liz or Miss Jane or Miss whatever. After Yuma we headed back to Gila Bend and they went on to Tucson and I headed home for the night. It had been a really long day and I was tired.

They toured around Tucson, Nogolas, Tombstone and Rio Rico on Tuesday while I was at the office for a staff meeting and to get a few things done and pick up my new truck!!! Wednesday I met them in Tucson and we headed towards Willcox. They talked about the rain they encountered in Tombstone and I mentioned that it had been over 140 days without rain in Phoenix so it we really needed the rain. We toured a pistachio and pecan farm and had lunch with the county president in Willcox. After lunch we toured Eurofresh where currently 241 acres of tomatoes are grown under glass in greenhouses. It's quite impressive. The directions to Eurofresh cracked me up because they were: take this exit, turn left, go 20 miles to the stop sign and turn left!! After Eurofresh we headed towards Safford. By this time most of us were a little cold because the wind had picked up. So we stopped in at Walmart while in Safford so those of us who wanted more clothes- warmer clothes could get them. I got a jacket and a pink hat. The hat was on clearance for $5 but when it rang up it came up only for $1!! What a deal.

Thursday morning we woke up and headed towards Snowflake. We went over to Globe and then through Salt River Canyon- I think they might have been a little impressed and a little afraid of the ride on the bus. The bus driver was really good at driving through and around things all week. When we hit Show Low there was snow on the sides of the road. Only enough to make the ground white. When we made it Taylor - for lunch at Trapper's (really we were there for the pie!) They toured Snowflake and the some of the Flake ranches as well as a feedlot. They went on to Holbrook and over to Winslow for the night and I headed down the mountain to Payson and home for the night. I had them stay in Winslow because you have to at least stand on a corner and the hotel there is amazing.

They were suppose to go on to the Grand Canyon on Friday but that didn't happen because it was snowing all day in Flagstaff and they decided they wouldn't really be able to see the canyon so they went to Sedona instead and then made it back down to Phoenix by 5pm. I caught back up with them around 8:30 that night to pick up the coolers they borrowed. I think they had fun and I love it because they were so nice and funny. I hope to be able to see a few of them when I'm in NC in May and I want to keep in contact with some of them too!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Project CENTRL in Tucson

So this past weekend I Thursday through Saturday in Tucson for Project CENTRL. It was fun. Thursday we just had dinner and had a chance to chat with classmates. We had our extemporaneous speaking during that time. I went last time- I knew I would because it was the first round and I had just dropped an English muffin on my shirt-grape jelly side down. As they were calling names, I ran to the room to change and came back learning I was going to be speaking. That is the way my life goes but I enjoyed it. I think I enjoy talking off the cuff rather than prepared public speaking. It doesn't stress me out as much because I want to be perfect and I analyze speaking if it's prepared.

Friday night we had a wine tasting party for those who wanted to try different wines. It was really cool the stuff you learn that is outside of the scheduled program of learning. I really enjoyed it.

Friday we spent most of the day touring university of Arizona. I had been there a year and a half ago with our board of directors and seen many of the things we toured. The new thing for me was the meat lab. I have been in many slaughter/meat labs in my time but still found it interesting. The rest of Saturday was sharing our internship programs and gaining outsiders perspectives on areas we could use help. I have a lot cut out for me to get mine done- hopefully it works.

This same weekend happened to also be rodeo weekend in Tucson so we went out to a couple places and danced. It was fun and we burned some calories. I have more fun just hanging with our group than anything. It's a great way to get to know them and also observe human behavior- or people watch as I call it. :)

Saturday morning we did a session on True Colors- colors representing your personality. I would highly encourage others to take this course if they haven't. I am a green, followed by gold then orange and finally blue (but only at work). Socially I'm Green- Orange- Gold- Blue. We had quite a few laughs in our group and in class in general. I think we decided our Green theme song could be "Don't go away mad... Just go away."

Next month we are in Cottonwood and participating in a mock zoning hearing. I'm looking forward to the challenge. After our session was over a couple of us went to lunch at the Buffalo Witches (I think that is what it is called) it's on 4th street. It has some great food and is a really cool place to meet for lunch if you are ever in Tucson. I told some friends about it when I got home and we decided we are going to have to go back and just explore 4th street.

All in all- it was a good time.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Nascar season finally started again

So this past weekend was the start of the 2006 NASCAR season. There hasn't been any races since the week before Thanksgiving so I was missing the excitement. Watching it on TV is not nearly as fun as seeing it live. Thankfully Phoenix now has two races each year so I can get my fix twice. I do want to catch a race in Richmond and at Daytona sometime in my life.

It was a great race. I watched both the Busch and Nextel races this past weekend. Normally when I watch the race- my ADD kicks in and I just can't sit there that long focused on the race. Usually I do work or scrapbook or something while watching the races. However this weekend they were really exciting and I paid attention the entire race. Maybe it was because Jr was running well in both races or because Tony "Smoke" Stewart was up in the front as well. Or it could have been all the really funny and cool commercials. NASCAR has some good ones and it is almost like watching the Superbowl.

I like both of those drivers. Jr is cool because he is Jr and he's funnier than crap on the radio. His sponsor is Budweiser and I like the color red. I know not a lot to be my favorite but he is cool. My other favorite driver- and afraid to say for those who really know me- possibly my favorite after this last year- is Tony Stewart. I love that he gets mad and pushes back. It shows he is a normal guy. The drivers that are always being nice make me want to vomit. There should not be niceness or pc in NASCAR. It's just not right. The other thing I really like about Tony Stewart is that you do not have to guess what he is thinking or where he is coming from. You just know it. He is up front and its cool. If you ask some people they would probably say the same about me too so I can appreciate it from him. I love his eyes too and I have heard things that make me think he is funny too. I could squeeze him!!! (it goes back to November).

Well both days I ended up watching the last of the race almost standing on the couch- actually I was kneeling, leaning over the arm rest and screaming at the TV- like that would really help Jr and Tony drive better. HA HA!!!! It ended up that Tony won the Busch race and placed 5th (I think) in the Daytona 500. The race could have only been better had Jimmie Johnson not won. I don't really like him. Not because of him (although his eyebrows really bug me- hello it's called wax and a tweezer!!). I digress. Anyway the reason I don't really like him is because I think his crew chief pushes the line too many times. It just seems a little unethical and not right. If I was Jimmie I would wonder if my crew chief really believed that I had the talent to win the race or if he needed to modify the car to get me to the winner's circle. Thankfully I don't have to think about that. But I don't have a lot of respect for the #48 crew chief.

Now it's on to California, Las Vegas and soon they will be coming to Phoenix. The cool thing is this year for the November race here, the Busch race will be on my birthday!!! I can't wait!!!

Friday, February 10, 2006

I finally had my picture taken with a red telephone box- a whole line of them!!!

Now I can scratch that off my list of things to do before I die.

Dana and I at the Tower Bridge in London.

If you look closely you can see the Lodon Eye, Big Ben and a red double decker bus.

Dana and I at an English football game.

I see London, I see... Hastings and Eastbourne!

I spent the first weekend of February in England! It was a very short trip but I was able to see Dana, see a few sites and bring stuff home for her! I left Phoenix on Thursday and arrived in London on Friday morning. Dana was at the airport to meet me and it was as if she had only been away a few weeks rather than six months!! We drove to her house were we dropped of the bags and then we headed for Hastings were she teaches. On the way to her house we saw a John Deere dealership along the road. I thought that was really cool. She had to go to school so I opted to spend time downtown looking around. It was cold but I had three layers of clothes on and a scarf so I was going to be fine (I really wished I had my winter coat from Oregon!!). Dana dropped me off at 10:30ish and I was to meet her in the same spot at 3:30. I hopped out and Dana left. As she drove away, down the street, I suddenly realized that I had left my coat and scarf in her car. It had gotten warm on the drive down from the airport so I took them off and put them in the back seat- where they still were!! I was freezing!!!!!

I did the only logical thing- I immediately went into Debenham's and bought a coat. A cute brown suede type coat that will be a nice addition to my closet. It's not to warm for AZ weather in the winter and it was on clearance!! With my new coat, I headed out to explore Hastings. It is a cute little town that has so much history! But everyplace has history in Europe because it's been there forever! I walked around and looked at some things. They have a lot of the same stores we do. I finally went into Mr. Bean's cafe and had a big hot cup of Mocha and decided to sit in there awhile and read till I was warm again. I read a few chapters in a book I brought and had another cup of coffee before I decided to head out again and conquer the cold. I continued to go up and down the streets. I stayed relatively close to the same area (so I covered some the area twice). Dana had said that could go to another area of town she mentioned but since I didn't have her cell number or really knew where she lived I stuck close to where I was to meet her. I did find a mini-mall in the area and looked through the 10 or so shops there. They have a cute store called Accessorize that I liked.

Dana met me at 3:30 and we were off to the house so I could shower and get ready for dinner. We met some of her friends and had a great meal. We then headed to Kings, a dance club that was good. It had a lot of smoke and a smoke machine so I was having problems breathing but I didn't want to complain and ruin the night so I stuck it out. We danced till about 2:00 am. I had been up for 36 hours by that time and was tired!! We went home and I had to shower again before bed to get the smoke out of my hair.

Saturday we woke up early to meet Gail and go to an English football game. It was fun. We took the bus and drove up there. They had security guards posted all along the stairs between the home and visiting fans. I had more fun watching the fans taunt each other than watching the actual game. We lost and headed home but I had a great time and Gail's dad was so funny! He reminded me of my dad.

Sunday we woke up early and caught a train to London. Halfway there we had to switch to a bus because they do the train construction on Sundays. We then got back on the train from our hour bus ride and ended at Victoria station. As we excited and headed the few blocks to Buckingham Palace, we walked along a brick wall that enclosed the Queen's Muse- the place she stores all her carriages. The palace was neat to see and we notice the guards were going to be changing at 11:30. It was 9 so we headed through the park to see Churchill's war room- where all the planning and strategizing occurred during WWII. Along the way we saw some horses headed towards the other end of the park. They happened to be next to the War Room so we walked over and took a few photos of them changing guards.

The tour of the War Room was really neat. It was cool to be standing in the exact spot that Churchill and his other advisors and the rest of the staff had been all those years ago. It had been restored to how it was when they were there. It was as if they had just got up to go to get coffee or something. They still had the original stuff. When we were done there we headed back up to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. They had a band and it was fun to watch them march by. When that was over we headed to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

Big Ben is impressive and there is a spot that you can stand and have the London Eye (big ferris wheel), Big Ben and if you wait to the right moment, a double decker bus in the photo. Of course I had to get one of those. Westminster Abbey was closed because it was Sunday but it was cool to see and then we walked by Big Ben and parliament and over the bridge that crosses Thime River to grab a tour bus to ride around and see the sites. They covered a lot of what we had already seen but it was cool to see Scotland Yard, Kennington Palace, the homes of Margaret Thatcher and Sean Connery. We hopped off the bus to switch lines to see other things and saw the American Embassy and then decided to get off- it was cold riding up top (the only place to get a good view and great pics).

Where we got off the bus was a long line of red telephone boxes (booths) so of course I got my picture taken along side them and then in one of them. That is all I really wanted to do in London- see a red telephone box and ride a double decker bus. So I had done both!!! We grabbed the underground (tube/subway) to go to Covent Garden and see the street performers and shop. It was really cool and switching the trains was fun to. There, you can't just get off and go to the other side. You actually have to get off and run up or down stairs and hallways to reach the trains going in the other directions.

Covent Garden was really nice and I picked up a few photos and pictures as well as a purse, tea and some really good candy. We walked around and finally had lunch. I had the traditional Fish and Chips with vinegar and brown sauce. Then we headed out to see London Tower because you can't come to London and not see the tower. It is an old castle with lots of history. It was closed but I did make my way into the gift shop to purchase a few things and then we walked over to see the Tower Bridge. It was impressive in the night being light up. That is the bridge the American's thought they were buying when they bought the London Bridge that is Lake Havasu.

We headed for the train home and of course we had to run to catch it. I did a lot of running that day and I'm not a big runner. The ride home was the same as coming in- we had to get a bus part way. Once at Eastbourne station we stopped off at a fellow teachers house to chat a while. Nate and Craig are very funny and really nice. I hope both of them come to see Dana in Arizona once she gets back because it would be really nice to chat with them again. I had so much fun but I was so tired from the day that I packed and went to bed even though the Superbowl was on TV. With seven hours difference it was really late. I didn't even know who won till I was back at the states waiting for my flight to Phoenix.

In the morning, Dana dropped me off at the train station and I took it to the airport. When we bought the ticket we thought it was a direct train but I had to get off at one point and switch trains. I was a little worried because I only had 4 minutes to make the switch and I had two bags with me. Luckily I just had to walk across the track and there was a couple other people heading to the airport as well so I followed them!!

I made it to the airport and checked in and had a great flight home. I had such a wonderful time in England and everyone was so nice but next time I go I will bring a heavier coat and Dana's address so customs won't be mad at me for not knowing where I'm staying!! (just a hint for those who travel there). :)

Kacie and I at the Wildhorse Saloon!

Riders in the Sky and Porter Wagner on stage at the Grand Ole Opry!

This is on the street by the Rhyman. We were waiting for Del to pick us up.

Music City

So I spent the second weekend of January in Nashville for the American Farm Bureau Convention. It was a lot of fun! I spent most of my time between the women's committee stuff and the safety booth the ASAP (Ag Safety Awareness Program and network) had. We handed out stress balls that looked like baseballs because our theme this year is "step up to the plate for farm safety" and our spokesperson is Nolan Ryan! One of my favorite all time players. I'm not a big baseball fan but I have always loved Nolan Ryan and I love Luis Gonzales with the Diamondbacks!

So we landed in Nashville on Saturday afternoon and headed to the hotel. Paul, Kacie, Marcos and I all ended up in the same taxi with our driver Del. He was from Ethiopia and had been in Nashville for 5 years. He wanted to be a sheep farmer so we chatted with him all the way to the hotel. He gave us his card to call him when we needed a cab. We got ready and headed to the Grand Ole Opry. In the winter time it's held in the old Rhyman Auditorium downtown. Del met us and told us of a great Italian restaurant so we grabbed a bite to eat before hand. On the drive there we talked about socks because Kacie had forgot to pack black socks and she needed to purchase some. Del said it would be an expensive cab ride to find socks so we thought we might find some in a store around the opry.

The opry was really cool. It was neat to see it live after watching it on the TV growing up. Jeannie Seally, Riders in the Sky, Michael Martin Murphy and Porter Wagner were on it. As well as new artist Jeff Bates and a couple others I can't remember. There were quite a few people from AZFB that was there. After the show we called Del to pick us up and he was going to be a few minutes so we walked behind the Rhyman to the bars behind where Tootsies and the other famous bars are. We tried to find black socks but couldn't so we headed back to the hotel. As we were pulling up Del handed Kacie socks. He had went out and bought them for her while we were at the show!!!

Convention was fun Cal Ripken, Jr. was the main speaker and Sammy Kershaw was the entertainment. The insurance company had a party for the 12 states in the company at the Wildhorse Saloon. I only attended for a few minutes because I had a dinner I had to attend. I wish I could have stayed longer but it was fun. Monday night ended the convention so a few of us younger people went back downtown to hear the live bands in the various bars. It was fun going in and out of all of them listening to the different groups. Some of them were good- some not so good.

Tuesday was our free day before we had to get on the plane so Paul, Kacie, Marcos and I toured President Andrew Jackson's plantation. It was really neat to see the history and the house with the slave quarters and different gardens and buildings.

The plane ride home as usual except that when we landed, Ty immediately undid his seatbelt, stood up put on his coat and then proceeded to turn around and talk to us behind him all the while the flight attendant is on the intercom asking him to sit down and put his seatbelt on. She asked him several times and finally we had to yell at him to sit down. We had quite a few laughs out of that!!